Grading the Buckeyes: OSU takes a step back after two big wins


A grade card on Ohio State’s 17-16 win over Michigan State with Year Two of Ohio State and Urban Meyer against Michigan and Jim Harbaugh on the schedule this week:

OFFENSE: C+

Ohio State’s offense did not look much like the team which had scored 62 points in back-to-back games against Nebraska and Maryland and there were several reasons for that.

First, the weather conditions, with a strong wind and some rain and snow mixed in, were not conducive to throwing the ball and scoring a lot of points. Quarterback J.T. Barrett talked about the ball doing funny things on at least one of his early passes. Second, Ohio State’s play calling was mostly conservative. Finally, Michigan State’s defense might have had its best game of the season.

The bottom line, though, was that even though running back Mike Weber and Barrett each rushed for more than 100 yards, the Buckeyes were not particularly sharp on offense. The offensive line allowed three sacks to an MSU defense that had only seven in its first 10 games. And, when OSU could have put the Spartans away after going up 17-10, it went three-and-out on its next two possessions.

DEFENSE: B

Defensively, Ohio State allowed a few big plays but also made some big plays at crucial times.

Michigan State has averaged more than 200 yards rushing in its last five games, so the 207 yards Ohio State gave up is not alarming. L.J. Scott rushed for 160 yards and OSU had no answer for him when he carried eight consecutive plays on an MSU 56-yard touchdown drive that cut Ohio State’s lead to 17-16 late in the fourth quarter. It also let him get loose for a 64-yard touchdown catch, a 61-yard run and a 26-yard run. That was a bit alarming.

OSU’s defense and the weather combined to make Michigan State’s offense one dimensional. The Spartans’ quarterbacks, Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry, were a combined 8 of 21 for 127 yards and threw for only 40 yards in the second half.

Linebacker Chris Worley had two interceptions, including a huge pick when Michigan State went for a two-point conversion after cutting the lead to 17-16 with 4:41 to play. And the defense ended the game with a flourish when it got a sack and an interception on Michigan State’s final two plays.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Tyler Durbin kicked a 39-yard field goal, Cameron Johnston had three kicks downed inside the 20-yard line and the kick coverage was strong.

The biggest problem came when OSU’s defense seemed not to be on guard for something unusual from noted play calling trickster Mark Dantonio on Chris Frey’s 25-yard gain on a direct snap on a fake punt in the fourth quarter. Also, Curtis Samuel fielded a punt inside his own 5-yard line.

OVERALL: B-

Ohio State’s offense and defense closed the game out after Michigan State cut the lead to 17-16. But it was hard to argue with Urban Meyer’s assessment when he said OSU would lose to Michigan this week if it repeated what it played like it did against Michigan State.

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